So, you haven’t heard from me in a while – actually since I went to college. Well, let me catch you up. Once I became accustomed to being away from home, I really liked college. I won’t kid you, the first couple of nights I was a little homesick, but it didn’t take long to see the benefits of college life. I played with the big dogs every day, learned new skills, had lots of people doing things with me, went on outings with the other guys, and a couple of times I let everyone out of the kennel.
Letting all the dogs out of the kennel and into the play yard wasn’t so much a college prank as the fact that I was trained and excelled at opening doors. I don’t think I was supposed to let everyone out of the kennel because next thing you know there was an extra gate by the front door and a note stating something to the effect that “due to Scotty’s great expertise at opening doors, we have added a little extra security.” Oh, well, that’s the risk that comes with teaching a dog to open doors! At any rate, I was well on my way to becoming a good service dog. But, that was not to be. You see, somehow, I tore the cruciate ligament in both my knees. How it happened no one is quite sure. Some say it’s my propensity to jump or bounce constantly. I like to think of it as an athletic injury.
Dr. Marcie diagnosed me immediately (she is so smart!), but she sent me to Dr. Michael at South Paws in Virginia to make sure I didn’t have something else wrong. He took x-rays and pulled my legs and watched me walk. “Nothing neurologic, except perhaps an extra ligament in that happy tail that won’t stop wagging,” he said. Next thing you know, I am having an MRI. And sure enough, it was my cruciate ligaments. Dr. Marcie was right.
Then it was a visit to VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg. I met Jason and Bill and Dr. Marc. They were all so nice to me. Dr. Marc spent a lot of time with my legs – bending them, pulling them, turning them… “Yep,” he said. “It’s the cruciates; one is completely torn, the other is partially torn.” He talked about my options – and I thought about each one: 1) do nothing, rest, and let them heal on their own – not a good option for a young guy like me; 2) do an extracapsular repair – also not good for someone as bouncy as I am; 3) do a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) – a good option but would require two surgeries, one for each leg and several months of recovery for each – too much time for me in a kennel; or 4) do a bilateral tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA). This means that both legs would be done at once with a less invasive procedure and with a faster recovery time. To me, that sounded like the the best option for a young fit boy like me. So, my surgery was scheduled. But wait, that’s not all. To get me ready for surgery, I started acupuncture treatments with Ms. Mary. She is so nice and she puts me in the zone with her little needles. She does humans and horses, too, but I think she really likes dogs the best!
My surgery was textbook perfect. I told Dr. Marc that he is a magician. You will find this hard to believe, but I had my surgery (both legs!) in the morning and by that evening, I was able to walk on my own to potty. I stayed in the hospital for two nights and then went to my puppy home. There I found a huge doggie crate – I mean HUGE. It had belonged to a Great Dane (those must be some kinda big dogs!). The size was important because I had to wear an E-collar for quite a few weeks, and I needed room to move around with that thing on my head. Not a pretty sight!
Three weeks after surgery, I started physical therapy. I began spending two days a week at the “spa.” Ms. Renee, Ms. Robin, and Ms. April took care of me there. Some of the things they did were laser therapy (I had to wear cool red goggles!), stretches, range of motion exercises , 3-legged stands, elevated stands with a balance board, cone weaving, cavalletti poles, ultrasound treatments, weight shifting, and underwater treadmill sessions. I did this for two months. I felt like a real athlete and pretty pampered, too!
At home, I began going for little walks and feeling pretty good. Then, Ms. Jennifer told me (I think it was with tears in her eyes) that I would have to be released from the program because she couldn’t take the chance of my reinjuring myself while working with a veteran. Our veterans deserve to have dogs that are not only impeccably well-mannered and trained but also who are 100% healthy. She asked my puppy raiser family if they would become my permanent guardians, and of course, they said “yes!”
So, now l am living back at home with my family and Jake and the kitties and helping train Hero Dogs Sammie. And, being the determined guy that I am, I decided to follow my brother Audie’s lead and become a therapy dog. I practiced and passed the Therapy Dogs International test with flying colors. I am a therapy dog that will bring joy and comfort to lots of people, and eventually I hope to make regular visits to staff and patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
So you see, my life has turned out a little different than I expected. Nonetheless, although my path has been altered, my purpose will remain the same. At heart, I will always be a Hero Dog. I hope never to disappoint all the wonderful people who, from the time I was a little baby, put their faith in me and then unconditionally cheered for me and supported me on this journey. You know who you are, and I thank you with all my heart and my non-stop wagging tail.